IT Support to small businesses

7,000 businesses and associations have enjoyed digitisation
assistance from Danish libraries.

During the autumn 2013, the public libraries in nearly all municipalities in Denmark have been helping 7,000 small businesses and associations to get started with digital self-service. Many have learned how to get a digital signature and a digital letterbox. Others have needed guidance in terms of reporting VAT and sickness and maternity pay.

One of those having received help is entrepreneur Michael Søkilde Christensen: “I didn’t realize that such an offer existed, and, moreover, without having to pay for it. I really don’t know what I should have done without the library”, he says.

Digital strategy 

In collaboration with regions and municipalities, the Danish government has been operating with an e-government strategy 2011-2015, with the objective that nearly all communication between citizens, businesses and public authorities must happen digitally. According to the strategy, all businesses and associations have been obliged – before the 1. November 2013, to establish a digital mailbox to enable them  to receive mail from the public authorities.

Many smaller businesses have not been familiar with the use of Internet and digital reporting. A prerequisite for implementing the legislation was, therefore, that personal help should be available for those who find it hard to manage the change from paper to Internet. The Danish Business Authority has therefore joined forces with the Danish Agency for Culture in a vproject that guarantees library assistance for smaller IT-ready businesses.

Training for employees

Prior to the campaign, The Danish Business Authority has in the autumn provided training for the library employees, who have accepted the role as IT supervisors for the businesses. The Authority, together with the Danish Agency for Culture, has been in charge of national marketing of the service and created networks with stakeholders in the corporate world. The Agency for Culture has provided a modest subsidy for the participating libraries.

The experiences from the main endeavours in autumn 2013, where the digital mailbox became obligatory, can be summed up briefly as follows:

  • Generally speaking, the project has lived up to expectations. The Danish Business Authority as well as the libraries consider it a success
  • The library’s IT supervisors have been busy. They have been faced with several challenges: For example, some IT solutions are not particularly user-friendly, and many businesses postponed the transition for as long as possible, which resulted in great pressure on the library during the weeks leading up to 1. November
  • The libraries have provided professional help. 85% have been satisfied with the help
  • Employees in the libraries have acquired new skills
  • The libraries have met a new user group. Most of those seeking help had not been using the library previously.

With this campaign, the libraries have solved a social task and thereby gained considerable respect in the state sector as well as the municipal sector. They have acquired new ambassadors – not least among those business owners and associations that have obtained help from the library.

The project continues concurrently with new IT solutions becoming obligatory and new businesses seeing the light of day. The libraries are keen to develop the competences within this field continually.

Chief Consultant Danish Agency for Culture, libraries